Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance with any reality is purely coincidental. Any resemblance to any person, country, or incident is purely a matter of chance. The writer is not responsible for it.
Although, it is quite possible that many may identify with this write-up.
My name is John (although it could be Bob, Micheal, Arun, Jose or Platini). I am, thanks to my hard work and luck, now a CXO level officer in a large multi-national company. I started my career at the lowermost level in the organization and by sheer dint of my consistent performance reached the level I had always dreamed of.
A CXO level executive.
Today, working from home, my mind is torn between what I am asked to do and what I believe should be done….my conscious is killing me, the pain is written all over my face. Should I or Should I not…..the muddle in my mind is become deeper and deeper and deeper….more of that in a bit.
Here is what happened:
John’s phone rang. It was the companies CEO. He said we need to talk, is this a good time? One thing John had learnt in his working life was that when the CEO calls, it is always a good time.
As expected, he said “Yes Boss”.
“John, I will not waste my time in pleasantries because there is nothing pleasant about what I have to tell you. The Board has decided that to tackle the drop in business, due to corona, we have to lay off at least 25 % of our employees and cut the salaries of the remaining employees by 10 to 20 %”.
John was shocked into silence. His biggest fear was coming true. John always believed in the power of good employees. He always believed that the success of an organization depends on the quality of its employees. He believed, that he has been successful in his career because he always chose a great team to work for him. He clearly communicated the objectives to them, monitored regularly, provided mentoring and guidance whenever required and boom….the success happened.
This approach has worked for him, time and again. And now this. His mind went in overdrive.
John called the CFO of the company; he was keen to know the financial situation of the company. He could call the CFO because he and Bob (the CFO) were school friends.
He mentioned about the call he has received and asked Bob, “Are we in that bad a shape? I thought we were doing well. At least, that is what I have been reading in the press”.
Bob’s loud sigh could be heard over the phone.
Bob said in a quiet tone, “So it has started finally. Well, no we are not in a bad shape. We are sitting on enough cash to last out more than a year”.
John exclaimed, “then why”??
Bob responded in a de-moralised tone, “John, this debate has been going on in the Board for the last 3 days, all of us including the CEO have been trying their level best to convince the Board that we can and we must be more patient. Let’s at least sit tight for next 3 months and if we see Covid coming under control and if we see that a vaccine is around the corner then we may not need to take any drastic action otherwise we can pull out our swords at that time.
John “Makes sense, so then?”
Bob “We failed. As you know John, the Board is run and dominated by the owners of the company. From their perspective, waiting for 3 months is throwing cash away. They want the money NOW.
John, an employee-oriented CXO was disappointed, his mind’s whirl became even worst…
John, having worked in the industry for a long time, knew that sometimes the power and desire of money/ambition clashes with the requirements of being a good and sensible human being. And sometimes one has to do such things to save the jobs of other employees, ensure the longevity of the business and for the “larger” good of the other stakeholders….But should the same priorities apply in case of pandemics like this? Knowing that employees laid off will not be able to find jobs these days.
Companies spend a lot of money on Corporate Social Responsibility. In such a situation, should not the charity begin at home? Or CSR is only done because companies get tax exemption??
John’s mind went towards another issue, the average age of the company’s employee is 27 years (termed these days as “millennial”). For some reason, they don’t understand the seriousness of the situation. They are still working hard, they are upbeat about the company, they believe that they are working for a successful company which works in cutting edge technologies and they are proud of the work they do and the company they work for.
Hi, This is me Manoj Tandon; back again……
please look at the above situation from a distance and give you thoughts and opinions on the following questions:
1. How do you picture the Board’s decision? And what do you think they should have done?
2. What do you think about the reaction of the top leaders? What can they do or should do to make the situation better?
3. Read the above as if you are an employee of the company and tell what you think would be the right answer to this puzzle.
Here are my answers (due to shortage of space, I will try to be as succinct as possible):
1. Boards, for obvious reasons, tend to look at things in money, market, margins etc. kind of terms. Since they don’t have to meet the employees daily, share the pleasures of success and pains of failure with them they mostly tend to become impersonal in their decision making and behaviour.
2. Reactions of top leaders are more understandable, for two reasons. One, that since they are dealing with the human side of an organization (it tends to be almost 50 % of their daily work), they feel more the pain of the people who work for them (compared to a typical Board). In this case, however, there is one big weakness that is coming to the fore. If the young employees are not feeling the sense of trouble looming then it is the fault of top leaders. It is their job to communicate with the employees regularly. If the employees are living in their world, clearly the Top Management, while people-oriented, is not leading properly.
3. If I look at it from an employee perspective, I have all the reasons to be a bit upset. A bit, because while my company has been doing well but due to the prevalent situation across the world, I must have my antenna’s up to know that something like this can happen and I need to start thinking and preparing my Plan B.
Now, what should John do? Again my recommendation (would love to hear you):
On the Board and Senior Side:
1. Taking the matter to the board or seniors with just the human side will not help. They will all express sympathies but will not change their decision
2. If any change of decision is possible, John needs to build a business case out of it.
a. What is the impact on the company’s ability to deliver now and in the future if people are laid off?
b. Will some revenue remain unrealised? If there are less or demotivated people, once you lay off a substantial amount of people, whether one likes or justifies it whichever way, the morale does always go down.
c. Many companies (those who can afford it and this company seem to be able to), are using this time and availability of resources to create new IP, new Post Covid 19 offerings depending on how the market is expected to change. John has to ask himself this question that can the extra workforce be utilised for creating IP or a group of IP’s in a short period of time judiciously using the people. If yes, then make some very specific and focussed plan for it and present that to the board.
On the employee side:
1. Start orienting them towards the fact the business is down. Not because the company is not doing a good job but because of Covid 19. Draw parallels between other companies facing the same problem.
2. Urge them to think of ways they can contribute more
3. Maybe form task groups to come up with ideas about how they can contribute directly or indirectly to increase companies business.
Some more thoughts from my side:
1. Most specialists are reasonably confident that a solution will be found soon. Vaccines are under preparation and are being tested in various labs all around the world, and very competent doctors and scientists are working around the clock to find a solution.
2. Although overall the world is in a state of high alert, however lurking somewhere in everyone’s mind is confidence that given the amount of effort, energy and money being put in to find a cure/vaccine, the solution will inevitably be found. It may take some time, but it will happen sooner rather than later. Medical science has advanced too much to not be able to find the solution.
Will it take 3 months, 6 months, 1 year or more? No one knows.
You may be wondering why I have authored this article?
· this situation is currently happening in many places
· is being thought about at many places and
· if you follow the news closely, it has already happened in many places all across the world. It is REAL.
So the question is — Is money EVERYTHING? Are their situations where “employee welfare” tops “money for the business”? Please do remember, as I had said before, there is enough cash in the company to last more than a year.
As always, please do like, share and comment below. More opinions, better thinking, better judgement.
Meanwhile, stay safe and God bless you.